America, as a nation, has undergone severe political, social, and economic changes during the years of 1860 and 1877. Industrialization, modernization, and the way people were thinking brought about change in the nation, such as antislavery, anti-secession, and rebellion. With the Civil War, Reconstruction, and several newly added amendments to the Constitution, America was undergoing what could be referred to as the second American Revolution.
The Civil War left a great impact on the nation. President Lincoln stated that he had no intention of interfering with slavery but the south had no actual right to secede from the Union. When South Carolina was the first state to secede and other states quickly followed, Lincoln felt that he had to take matters into his own hands and enacted his power as both the Commander in Chief and the Chief Executive. We see in Document A that South Carolina felt differently about this issue. They felt that there isn’t anything written in the Constitution that says that can’t secede and because the people were unhappy they had the right, as a sovereign state, to secede. The southern states seceding was the first step towards the need for reconstruction.
Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves that were still under possession in 1863. This only applied to Confederate States outside of the union and border-states were still allowed to keep their slaves. Eventually, in 1865, the 13th amendment was passed which abolished slavery. Even though blacks were now freed, they had no role in society yet and had difficulty adjusting to their new freedom. In a political view of things, more Republicans were introduced into both houses of Congress, which meant more support of their freedom.
Democrats were more opposed to their freedom and criticized Lincoln. In Document C, we see that African Americans are able to fight in the war and be considered free but are still unable to vote. They still feel neglected because the courts won’t listen to their testimony. Document D also agrees with this and states that the Federal government should not be able to cause suffrage in states. Even though blacks are freed, they still don’t have any tangible rights.
In attempts to unite the nation several acts were put into affect. The Freedman’s Bureau was created in order to provide welfare, shelter, food, and medical attention to those hurt and misplaced by the war. Unfortunately, negative acts were also put into effect. The south created the Black Codes, which prohibited blacks from renting land or borrowing money to buy land. It forced them to sign working contracts, which was very similar to slavery. It also prohibited blacks from testifying against whites in court. President Johnson was in office during this and felt that the Black Codes was necessary because he didn’t want America to become “Africanized.” Republicans were outraged and felt that this was treasonous. In Document E the freed blacks feel as if they were promised things form the Freedman’s Bureau and are still being neglected. Freed slaves were questioning ‘who won the war?’ due to the fact that they were still being oppressed even after they received freedom.
Republicans were taking control of the government and were ignoring the orders of President Johnson. A branch of republicans, called Radical Republicans, was struggling for four years for equal right for all Americans. In 1866 the Civil Rights Act was created. This stated that African Americans were United States citizens and shielded them from the Black Codes. Shortly following this was the 14th amendment, which stated that all people born in the United States were citizens and had equal protection of the law. In Document F we see that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the changing of the constitution to include the 14th amendment was considered to be absolutely revolutionary. Following the trend of Republicans taking control of the government and revolution, President Johnson was impeached in 1868 due to 11 high crimes and misdemeanors. He was the first president in history to be impeached.
After Johnson’s impeachment, blacks started to receive more equal treatment. Women received property, debt relief and penal codes. Blacks were able to vote in the 1868 election, which ended up giving the Republicans a margin of victory, as shown in Document G. The 15th amendment was also added to the Constitution, which prohibited any state form denying a citizen the right to vote. Revolution had been going positively throughout the nation. This all ended when white men from the south organized secret societies. The created the Ku Klux Klan, whose goal was to scare and terrorize blacks. The Ku Klux Klan burned buildings and murdered newly freed blacks. Document H and Document I speak of how the increase of power in the central government imposes new power into groups that have never had power before, such as the freed slaves. Document I depicts how members of the Ku Klux Klan’s goal was to terrorize blacks by force. In 1870 congress banned these secret organizations form forming and used acts of force to enforce the 14th and 15th amendments.
The United States under went severe changes throughout the years of 1860 and 1877. The goal for most was, as stated by Lincoln, “with malice towards nonce and charity for all.” Presidents Lincoln and Johnson used their executive power to bring the 11 seceded states back to the union. Reconstruction was becoming inevitable after the Black Codes were passed. Revolutionary ideas such as freedom of slaves, anti-secession, and rebellion played a key factor in these years.